Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Which We Bid Farewell to NewFamilySearch and Welcome Family Tree

It took awhile to get this post up! This was originally posted on Keepapitchinin on January 10th and extensively discussed there, and I just noticed it was mentioned in the "Bloggernacle Back Bench" in the Deseret News.

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The Church genealogical database NewFamilySearch (NFS) has been frustrating for so many people, particularly those who do actual genealogical research and care about accuracy. NFS allowed people with no particular skill to upload sketchy aggregated online family trees (usually culled from Ancestral File, Ancestry, and RootsWeb) and have their data look as valid as the correct information.

Family Search recently released a replacement for NFS. It is called Family Tree. So far, I’m impressed. It has solved some of the worst of the problems with NFS and whereas it was hardly worth correcting NFS, I’ve found it worthwhile to go in and start correcting the record in Family Tree.

Here is a guide to getting started. (In addition to this brief tutorial, there are some good tutorials in Family Tree. Click on the “Help” menu in the top right corner.)

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First, every time I start working on Family Tree, I open up two windows: one for Family Tree and one for Family Search.

In the Family Tree window, I select the person I want to work on. For this tutorial I chose my ancestor Elizabeth Ann Pugsley Hayward. She was an early Utah politician who introduced the 19th Amendment into the Utah Senate for ratification and was one of the first women to serve as a delegate to a national political convention. She was vice president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association and president of Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

Elizabeth’s Family Tree entry has not had much work done on it.

First I’ll check the Vital Information section. I just compared the information against her death certificate, personal genealogical records, and a biography written by her daughter. It all looks more or less accurate.

If I did need to edit something, I would click on the entry and edit it, using the standard data formats as shown.

I’m not going to correct “Salt Lake City, Utah” to “Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States” as recommended by Family Tree since it was Great Salt Lake City and Utah Territory at the time. Although I could edit the entry to perfection, I will leave it as is for now.

I will return to “Vital Information” later and show how to add sources.

The next section is Other Information. None of the alternate birth names are correct, so I will delete them.

I click on the alternate name then click “Delete.” The program asks for a reason, so I add a reason:
Family records, church records, and Elizabeth’s death certificate all agree that her birth name was Elizabeth Ann Pugsley. She was listed as “Elizabeth A. Pugsley” in the 1860 United States Census.
The edited version looks like this:

Other information could be added in this section such as military service, naturalization, occupation, and religious affiliation.

Next is the Family Members section. Elizabeth had nine children. Six of them died young. After the fourth death, she copied a poem into a little notebook:
    Oh the stillness of the room
    Where the children used to play,
    Oh the silence of the house,
    Since the children went away. 
    This is the mother life—
    To bear, to love, to lose;
    Till all the sweet sad tale is told
    In a pair of little shoes, 
    In a single broken toy
    In a flower pressed, to keep,
    All fragrant still the faded life
    Of them who fell asleep.
Someone has added a tenth child to the family, so I will remove her. I move my mouse to the child’s name and click on “Edit Relationship.” That brings up this screen:

I click on “Delete Relationship” in the top right and enter a reason for deleting the relationship:

As noted in that screen, I will add a note to “Discussions.” (See below.) I also sent an email to the person who originally added the child to the family, explaining why I removed her.

I should go through each of the children and correct and source their information, but will save that for another time.

Now to Sources. No sources are shown. I will start adding sources from Family Search.

I click over to my Family Search window and enter some search terms. (Disclaimer: I am very familiar with this family and its related sources. If I were doing work on a family I wasn’t so familiar with, the research would take more effort than what I show here—this is a quick guide to Family Tree, not a primer on acceptable standards of genealogical proof.)

Here is the search result:

Three of the sources are for Elizabeth and four are for her daughters. I’ll start with her 1860 United States Census entry.

I click on “My Source Box” at the top right, then on “Add to My Source Box” in the drop-down menu. A screen will confirm that the source was added. I repeat this for all the sources I see for Elizabeth. Next, I will do a search for “Elizabeth Hayward” with residence listed as Salt Lake City between 1850 and 1950. I just added her additional United States Census records to the Source Box.

Now, I will return to Elizabeth’s Family Tree entry on my other screen. I scroll down to Sources and click on “Go to Source Box.” This is what the Source Box looks like now:

I click on “Attach” for each entry and note why I am adding the entry. For example, for the 1940 Census I type:
United States Census entry for Elizabeth Pugsley Hayward. Name spelled incorrectly, but it shows her living in the household of her daughter and son-in-law.
I click in the top left corner to go back to Elizabeth, and now her “Sources” entry looks like this:

Other sources from Family Search can be added in the same manner. For sources from outside Family Search, click on “Create a Source,” and add all requested information. I will add a link to my materials about Elizabeth on my personal blog:

Family Tree is still working out some bugs: when I clicked “Save” on the last screen, I saw this alarming screen:

The screen went away with a screen refresh, so I won’t worry about it.

Now I’ll go back and add sources to the Vital Information. I clicked on one of the vital facts, Elizabeth’s death date, and then clicked on “Tag.”

I chose the two sources that support the death information, and here’s the result:

Next, a note about the Discussions section. This is a good place to leave information that doesn’t fit elsewhere.

Here is a note I left about the nine Hayward children:

Here is a note I wrote on another ancestor’s NewFamilySearch entry last year. It was merged over into Family Tree:

And, finally, after you’ve spent some time working on an ancestor’s entry, look up at the top of his or her screen and click where it says “Watch.” Family Tree will send you a weekly email that shows changes made to your watched entries.

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In closing, here are three rules of thumb:

• Don’t change information in Family Tree unless you have documentation to prove your claims.

• Be polite. Even if people don’t have the same understanding and documentation as you do, they are (more or less) working toward the same goal, and they may have family stories or photos that they could share.

• Don’t spend so much time obsessing over genealogical details that you lose track of the real purpose of genealogical work and your ancestors’ stories and personalities and life experiences, and what they mean to you. As Walt Whitman said:
    I believe of all those men and women that fill’d the unnamed
         lands, every one exists this hour here or elsewhere, invisible
         to us, 
    In exact proportion to what he or she grew from in life, and out
         of what he or she did, felt, became, loved, sinn’d, in life. 
    I believe that was not the end of those nations or any person of
         them, any more than this shall be the end of my nation, or
         of me;
    Of their languages, governments, marriage, literature, products,
         games, wars, manners, crimes, prisons, slaves, heroes, poets,
    I suspect their results curiously await in the yet unseen world,
         counterparts of what accrued to them in the seen world,
    I suspect I shall meet them there,
    I suspect I shall there find each old particular of those unnamed


  1. Fabulous instructions, Amy. Very clear and so useful. I've referred several people to them already. Thanks for all your work.

  2. Thanks. I also have some people who wanted a basic tutorial. This is great.

  3. That little poem Elizabeth copied is so heartbreaking!

    I appreciate these instructions! We just took a look last night and Christian was really frustrated at all the mistakes with his family line. We'll have to watch some of the training videos.